A man named Marlow reminisces his recently past adventure while relaxing on a ship waiting for the tide to come in on the river Thames. He had just ventured into the heart of the African Congo while working for a European shipment company in order to obtain shipments of ivory from stations along the coasts of the Congo river. In his time working there he hears extravagant rumors about a man named Kurtz, who apparently is the prime example of what a true worker of the ivory company should be. Upon hearing these rumors Marlow makes it a goal of his to find this man see what all the fuss is about. After months of working Marlow finally finds the settlement in which Kurtz has been living and realizes that however great this man was he is not the same man now. It turned out that Kurtz had gone slightly insane and participated in the rituals of the local tribes people who are referred to in the story as "savages", due to their lack of being civilized. He was also found sick and dying from disease (probably malaria). A little before Kurtz's death he gives some important papers to Marlow to hand to Kurtz's fiance back home.
Though this novella has many themes, its primarily focused on imperialism. Imperialism is defined as "the creation and/or maintenance of a country's power and influence through military force" and it is used on the African natives in this story excessively. The author of this novella, Joseph Conrad, used imperialism to represent what King Leopold II of Belgium was doing to the Congo natives at the time when this story was published. Leopold II had governed the natives cruelly and savagely. In 1892 Leopold II had claimed a monopoly in the Congo for rubber with which he worsened the lives of the native farmers by paying them unbelievably little for high amounts of materials. He also used military force to ensure the high quotas were met.